[translated from the original written in Arabic by the Late father Matta El Meskin.]
Brother and servant:
We servants need to go back from time to time to ensure ourselves of the purpose upon which our service has to be built. We must find out the mistakes that had unintentionally crept into our service. This report tries to help you each time you try to give account to yourself about your service, and serves as a measure of your faithfulness and sincerity in the service of the Lord.
Therefore, this is not an essay to read, but an examination. It does not demand anything from you. Rather it lights your way to reach out for the hand of the Lord, who can give you what you are missing. Indeed the needs of the servant are too many. So, please read this to measure your life and your service. Thereafter, I recommend that you read it a second time slowly, paragraph by paragraph, and underline the crucial words you find need to experience. Then make your own commentary about it. Turn it into a prayer and supplication in the hands of the Lord, and pour out yourself before him so that He may give you what He knows that you need.
Also, in order to maximize your benefit; let every section take enough time of your thinking, meditation, and self-examination throughout your daily activity within at least a week’s time. Then, you may discuss those points with other servants or with the person in charge of service or with your confessor.
I pray that the Lord will appoint for himself everywhere and at all times, faithful servants who know the value of service and experience its power. Only such servants will reap its fruits and fill their hands with the harvest of its corn to stand before the Lord all the time with their bosoms full of its richness and their hearts full of its joy.
I-THE MEASURE OF SERVICE
(1 Corinthians 13:3… And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.)
That is the measure of service. Any measure other than love is only a human measure. The measure of love in service is built on a foundation.
First, you love God. So that, however small or great the service might be, its motive would be your love for God. (John 21:15 Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?)
Second, You love the person you serve as a personal representative of Jesus our Lord. (Matthew 25:40 In as much as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.)
Third, You love the church as the body of Christ. You actually do everything you can to keep the church strong (1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so for as much as you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church.)
FALSIFYING OF THE MEASURE OF SERVICE
The measure of service can be corrupted under the influence of many menial factors e.g. financial gain, moral or social benefits etc. The most dangerous factor being self righteousness whereby, service becomes a front or even an opportunity to exhibit one’s personal awareness of his own righteousness, in stead of pure holy love.
This is the most damaging factor. The rest of factors can easily be uncovered by time, and that automatically makes it fizzle and get to naught. Yet, that particular factor completely falsifies the service in such a manner as to appear very warm and successful outwardly, and for a long time. Even though it is a fruitless service and benefits nothing in front of God.
SYMPTOMS OF A CORRUPTED SERVICE.
- Extraordinary emphasis on the results of service. Great happiness with success, and complete desperation with failure.
- Giving priority to the system and organization and regulations over the actual people, you serve. This ends up usually with sacrificing the person for the sake of the system.
- Lack of growth of the flock you serve into love and charity. Usually you find them attached to the servant more than they are attached to the Lord. The motto of Knowledge and spiritual learning:1 Corinthians 13:1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.”
II-QUALIFICATIONS OF THE SERVANT
In as much as the service is for the Lord, then it is only fitting that the Lord will invite that person whose heart is filled with the love of God. Such person will be anxious to be with God and be sincere to him. Therefore, we shall find the indicators of that invitation pointing to a particular person as follows:
1- As mentioned before, a heart full of love and sincerity to God and anxious to be with God
2- A heart filled with mercy, sympathy and compassion as well as love for others. Specially towards the young and the weak The presence of these two indicators in any person will ensure that he or she is invited to serve the Lord. We have to understand that the invitation is not made by word of mouth, or dreams. Rather by the actual gift of the necessary qualifications essential for the service. The spiritual gift, qualifying for service, usually starts small and grows bigger with perseverance, faithfulness, and prayer.
2-The flexibility of discipleship
Nobody is invited to serve God when he or she is perfect. There is no such a servant, whoever he might be, who does not need instruction. Therefore, it is essential that the servant of God will continue to keep the mind and heart of a disciple all the days of his life. Furthermore, it is important to continue to try hard to find out – through the Lord – what his mistakes or short comings might be…Never to be disturbed when the Holy Spirit rebukes him through the mouth of other people. Never rise above criticism or instruction in whatever manner he finds it. This flexibility makes the disciple of the Lord able to grow in the love of God and the love of others always.
3-The ability to uncover selfishness in one’s self and fighting it off
The invited servant must be extremely sensitive to his own selfishness. You would find him watching himself in everything he says or does, to discover the avenues which bring out his selfish traits to fight it off with vigilance, prayer and tears before God. He would be very firm against himself. No servant can be absolutely unselfish, but the most dangerous servant is the one who did not discover his own selfish attitudes. The faithful and successful servant would not be afraid to uncover his mistakes, and would not hesitate to apologize and correct any behavior that would betray his selfishness. Such a servant keeps the standard of his service high constantly, and paves the way for his own growth in love, even in the hearts of people. Continuous and precise confession kills selfishness, because, confession renews our strength continuously.
Service is not a mere message, knowledge, or a work of mercy. Rather it is a bond of fatherly love between the servant and those he serves (Phi 4:1) (Galat 4:19) The love that binds the servant with the flock is built on the fact that the servant is sacrificing himself for the others. The servant is giving his faith, love, sincerity, and zeal in order that his flock will grow in faith, love, and sincerity to God and to each other…. In this way service is just like suckling (1 Tim 2:7) So, service is like a spiritual motherhood, and sacrificing fatherhood, it does not sacrifice mortal things only, but rather sacrifice everything, emulating what Christ had done. A servant cannot overflow with these sacrifices to his flock and feed them with faith, love and sincerity unless he is constantly attached to God and continually feeding from Him. A successful servant will not nourish himself from God for the sake of others, rather, nourish himself to be fulfilled, and then it becomes natural to overflow to the others out of his fullness, while remaining full all the time. (Math 5:16) The servant, who takes from God, only to give, will be found always empty and constantly exhausted.
When the warmth of Christian love begins to get into the heart, it indicates that an avalanche of holy gifts is just waiting for that heart to open up to accept the gifts of God. Therefore, the continuos attachment to God will get you through the door of the spiritual richness and into the secret fulfilling overflow which the service needs.
If the service is corrupted and infested with selfishness, you shall find it always cowardly, overly careful, and ready to run away, unprepared to lose and subject to recluse and even stop. You find the servant always balancing the benefit from it and the losses resulting from it. Successful Service energized by deep spiritual love is constantly brave, ready to speak up and to endure all possibilities because the true honest Godly love makes the servant forget himself and turns any personal losses into spiritual profit. The main feature of this love is that it enjoys giving and sacrificing endlessly.
There is a kind of daring that is crazy fraudulent and unfounded on love. This is rather built on selfishness aspiring to show off and prove one’s self. Such, always ends up in anxiety, disorder, damage, and challenge. We have to watch out for that, because this is harmful to the service and to the name of Christ. The lawful bravery is always meek, peaceful; smiling as the love it is based on. It would never insult or hurt anyone… it can have words like fire, backed by a humble heart and a smiling face and eyes filled with tears of love (Acts4: 20) So true good bravery glorifies Christ and establishes the service.
A major reason for failure of service and the scattering of the lambs as well as planting the spirit of jealousy, envy and even hatred in their hearts is the partial preference of the servant for one of the lambs over the others. Christ always favored the weak, the humble, the persecuted, the sinners, and the unwanted. Favoring such members would be considered an act of bravery, love and understanding of responsibility. If you favor the sinner and the unwanted, you are in fact enduring with him the wages of his sin, and sharing with him – in a holy manner – the ill reputation (Luke 19:7) In the spiritual service, you cannot sacrifice the poor weak and sick lamb for the sake of the comfort and well being of the whole flock. Christ left the 99 lambs and went out looking for the one that slipped out and got lost. If we begin to favor a person who is powerful, handsome, or decent… that would be an indication that the servant himself is sick and needs a fast rehabilitation. Sometimes our partiality in service is based on satisfying some higher authority or someone in charge, rather than following the truth and applying the commandment as well as honoring Christ himself. This favoritism is dangerous because it takes the service outside the realm of holy worship to God (1 Tim 2:4) It is imperative for the servant to be lead by the Holy Spirit rather than by people’s opinions. (Rom.8: 14)
7-Simplicity of the spirit
A servant, who gets his knowledge and understanding from books alone, will find it hard to be simple. The knowledge of books has a tendency to inflate one’s personality. Clever understanding, and perfecting conversation in intellectual matters, creates vanity and self-awareness to the extent of pride. This in turn, creates a sense of attachment in the minds of the lambs towards the servant in so much as they would rush to emulate and copy him without thinking, above and beyond what is proper (1Corin.2: 1-5) Those who are attracted to the simplicity of the kingdom of Christ will also take for themselves from that simple spirit and then give back…Thereby, inviting the people to the real simplicity, which Christ explains by reminding us to return to childhood in order to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. That who serves using fine words, depending on the principles of the human knowledge more than the instructions of the Holy spirit, is in fact misleading the lambs away from the road to the heavenly kingdom and also is corrupting the work of the cross, because the lambs will get attached to that servant and his knowledge, thereby the servant would be taking for himself, that which belongs to Christ. Therefore, it is important for the servant to rely on the simplicity of the Holy Spirit in addition to avoiding all situations where he would be honored whenever possible. Always move back a step to let the Holy Spirit be more visible, and try to disappear to let Christ appear more prominently.
A servant must constantly be vigilante to measure every thing he says or does by the measure of the Holy spirit and the demands of holy spiritual love, so that he would not be trapped by human wisdom and personal opinions (Roman15: 18)
8-Sharing with the lambs spiritually
Sharing spiritually with the lambs through their feelings, emotions and thoughts, is an integral part of the service. Service before anything is nothing but lowering one’s self to the condition of those you serve at their level in actual life. You have to know their circumstances, taste their ignorance and their poverty, and even their darkness away from God. Only then you can take them and climb upwards aided by the work of the Holy Spirit and the light of the commandments and the power of faith, hope, and love.
Service does not despise the worst conditions to which a human being can descend, nor does it scorn the soul that had been smeared by the worst forms of sin.
Service is not an eloquent word spoken from a podium; it is rather holding a sinner’s hand or taking a weak person to cross over from the darkness to the light and from death into life. Emotional sharing with a person in pain, or someone, who had an accident, is something nice. However spiritual sharing with a sinful person suffering from people’s scorn and disgust and who had been shunned by everyone, is in fact a deed beyond compare, because this is the kind of work which Christ incarnated specifically to accomplish (For he made the one who does not know sin…. 2 Corinth5: 21) A Servant cannot succeed in raising someone from the circle of despair, darkness, and death, unless he is ready through faith and love to enter with this person into these circles. Yet he must also be armed with hopefulness to raise that person to the light and eternal life by the power of God ( in all their…. Isia36:9)
9-Constant awareness of inadequacy (always feeling weak)
A servant cannot sympathize with the weak and trodden and scorned, unless he himself is experiencing in his own life the same sense of inadequacy and actually abhors himself to the level of disgust. At the moment when the servant begins to be too confident of himself and feels he is superior or powerful, a huge gap immediately starts to form between him and his flock. The lambs begin to feel diminished and become aware of a huge difference between their level and the extremely unattainable high level of the servant. Consequently, the lambs will, either lose all hope to reach that level and fall into despair or, start to idolize the servant and surround him with a halo of holiness and fear. In either case the end result does not glorify God whose son was said to be crucified in weakness (2 Corin. 13:4)
It is good for the servant to remember his own weakness always and never forget his personal sins even if it was forgiven. So, when the servant has to face the weaknesses of his flock, he would not be disgusted with it, no matter how numerous or horrible it might be. A good servant should not look at what grace he had been given, rather put himself in the place of the weaker members, otherwise he might end up being unworthy of what he got.
It is also important that the servant must show his lambs that he is only a weak human being who depends totally on the support of God and the effect of his grace, since it is only in his weakness that the work of God would be manifest (2Corin. 112:9)
Therefore when the lambs are ensured that their servant is an ordinary human, they will begin to realize that the success, the power of words and deeds, and the wisdom…. All come from the Lord directly, thereby the honor and glory are given to the rightful owner being the Lord Himself alone. (We have that treasure …2 corinth4: 7)
10-Impartial faithfulness of the servant to the other servants in the Church.
Any servant, even if he is endowed with apostolic gifts, cannot serve and gather all the lambs of God in the whole world. Only Christ can do that, and he had given that power to his servants collectively. Therefore, the servants together can do the work of the one Christ. If the servant wants to isolate himself from the rest or if he starts to look down at them, ignore them or despise them, then he would be hurting the work of Christ and producing a lot of harm. He would unwittingly transfer to the lambs the spirit of polarity, divisiveness, divergence, and disagreement.
Any service that ends up with such result is definitely alien to God, and is harmful to the church.
A servant, who is invited by God, to do the work of Christ, is constantly gathering with Christ and not scattering the lambs away. He would teach the lambs how to love all the servants as well as all the other lambs in the church of Christ and in the name of Christ.
The sanctified method to help save the lambs from the offenses of the services of others, is to instruct them about what is right and show them the truth, in stead of criticizing the others in their presence, which can only lead to futile arguments, judgments, and drawing them out of the simplicity of the heavenly kingdom and the life with Christ.
When the true, sincere and faithful, love of the servant for the rest of the servants in the church becomes clear and evident in front of the lambs, it becomes like a corner stone to establish in their hearts a spirit of unity and togetherness inside the church. In as much as the unity is the ultimate goal of the sacrificial work of Christ, whereby the believers become united with the father through him, and as love is the divine means, that serves that holy unity in God. Therefore, it is clearly obvious that the primary work of the servant is to deliver to his children that divine instrument practically through a mature leadership, and personal example (John 13:35)
So let every servant realize, when he examines his fellow servant and judge him or criticize him, that every one has a different gift and it is not fitting at all that the strong scorn the weak nor that the weak hate the strong.
III- The essence of Service
The Essence of the service is quite different from the appearances of service. Achieving that goal – eternal life with Christ – means that a person will accept the glorious sacrifice of Christ as a personal redeemer through faith, the bible and the sacraments of the church. (In other words a person will accept the work of Christ which he had done for him personally, and which he “Christ” had entrusted the church to communicate to the believers by means of the bible and the sacraments. From this explanation, we can see that performing the superficial appearances of service is an easy matter, which can be done by any person even without any spiritual background. Yet achieving the essence of service is in fact beyond any person no matter how high his personal abilities might be or how great his personal talents are because, this has to do with living with God himself, therefore it cannot be achieved through any observable material form. That is to say that the essence of service is a secret spiritual work that surpasses human nature.
The energies that fuel the essence of service
These are tools that can transfer eternal life in the person of Christ, as it is known to the church, to the hearts of the lambs to be served.
First- A living faith.
The simplest manifestation of the power of the living faith, is its ability to move a mountain or a tree from one place to another as Jesus mentioned… that kind of work has been considered by the Lord as a product of the smallest living faith, and made its measure the mustard seed. It has to be noticed though that despite the extremely small size of the mustard seed, it still has life in it, so what is going to move the mountain or the tree is not merely faith….But rather, the living faith.
So what is required is faith that is alive. Unlike the life of the mustard, life incorporated in faith is eternal life…From the living God. This means that the servant must be living with God, believing in God, and living by God.
The greatest manifestation of faith then will be, transferring the eternal life which he himself experiences, through his faith and giving it through love and honest instructions to those he serves, so that they can believe in it and accept it through the church (life has been… 1 John1: 2,3)
That is the essence of service, then we can inform the others about the eternal life, which we are already experiencing, so that they can share it with us. The primary simple manifestation of the power of faith displayed in moving the mountain or the tree is not required from us and is not a mandate to any servant, therefore it is not given unless there is a reason for it, or under dire circumstances at the discretion of God. As for the second glorious manifestation of faith, it is evidenced by transferring eternal life from one heart to the other. That is a mandate to every one who has got that life. (And whosoever…revel.22:17)
Therefore the living faith needed for the essence of service is but a free universal gift, given to everyone who will accept it.
The living faith is the kind of faith that totally believes that God has the power to return back to life a dead man; therefore it would not find it difficult to return a sinner back to life even if his sin is equal to death itself. That is why any one who has that kind of living faith would not endure seeing sinners unrepentant, and cannot tolerate standing back, or recoil from defending the service even if he were threatened by death. The living faith encompasses an “unlimited trust” in God, bases on the divine characteristic “God is omnipotent” It also encompasses “absolute certainty” that God will do everything he promised to do. That is why the divine response to the living faith is accomplished because the trust and certainty.
Now, if we take away the living faith from the service with its content of trust and certainty, we shall be left with nothing but the appearances of service.
Second – The Mystery of Christ
For any person to be a true Christian, that is to say, living in the spirit with Christ and following his commandments, is to be admitted into the mystery of the new creation. That is a matter, which cannot be explained or discerned by any man, no matter how knowledgeable or wise he might be. Christ himself mentioned that this is achieved mysteriously by the Holy Spirit in as much as the wind blows without any man observing or seeing it…. No man can tell where it starts or where it ends. The essence of the service thus means that a person becomes a true Christian through the work of a servant, where the incomprehensible and untouchable mystery of Christ is achieved in him. So, the essence of service is not merely an education, a teaching or a thesis. It is a personal transference of the mystery of Christ which beyond any human mind from one person to another. It is an acceptance of the Spirit of Christ and his life. Therefore, that person who does have the spirit of Christ, he has Christ and have become Christian, whereas he who does not have the spirit of Christ, he in not Christian yet, even if he is called as one. (Everyone … Roman 8:9)
So, the essence of service is not a matter of just informing others of certain principles, ideas, or morals, it is rather a matter of spirit and a way of life (no one can say … 1corinth 12: 3)
As soon as the servant realizes the meaning of the essence of service, he will immediate turn around to look at himself and seek the essence of service inside the depth of his own heart in stead of the books and manuscripts. The Books and the manuscripts are the backbone of the appearance and the image of service which is indispensable to communicate the spiritual matters to the lambs, yet without the spirit and the life itself, what good are all the books, and how can the lesson be useful no matter how clever it might be. If we look at the manner in which the church introduced the mystery of Christ to the believers in the past – and continue to do so until now – whether these were old or young, we find that the church does not do this through education and teaching alone but rather we see the church introduce what it teaches from the podium in a practical manner in the form of the seven sacraments of the church.
Then the foundation of service in the church is not merely education, which constitutes the visible part of the service, but rather the mystical essential part, which cannot be introduced with words. It has to be through delivering the life of Christ into the heart of the believers in a manner that cannot be subject to examination. Therefore if the church depended on the teaching alone and excluded the sacraments, it in fact will do without the very essence of service and it can no longer be called a church.
So, also in the servant’s application of service, if you depend only on the oral message without inner workings of the spirit it will be like having a church without sacraments. Every servant can provide the superficial and visible part of the service, it is impossible for any servant to provide the life of Christ into the hearts and lives of the lamps unless the servant has it in his own heart first.
Third: The Mystery 0f Christian Love
Ordinary love is one thing while the mystery of Christian Love is another. Every one can experience ordinary love, and remain unchanged. But a person, who experiences the mystery of Christian love, cannot remain the same. In stead he must begin to sacrifice himself.
Christian love cannot be selfish. All other forms of love may revolve around self-interest, thereby can gradually diminish and eventually die. Christian love is alive. It is like a fountain of life. That is the mystery of its continuity and constant growth even under adverse conditions. Christian love is more powerful than death because it encompasses the mystery of the resurrection of Christ and his eternal life.
There can be no honest effective service without the mystery of love, because this service is supposed to bring to life the weak and the dead souls, which can only be achieved through the power of Christian love. Every servant can communicate the words, the commandments, and instructions of Christ to the people without giving up anything, and may even gain fame, honor and glory from those people But the servant who provides the essence of service to his flock, this is give them the spirit and the life, such servant must work through the mystery of Christian love.
It is clear from the words of St. Paul that the service no matter how strong and warm would mean nothing if it lacks the mystery of Christian love. Service can be strong and warm for personal reasons and without true love, it then becomes humanly service, useless and dead, and devoid of any benefit for the flock, for Jesus or even for the servant. Also, Christian love does not merely mean a desire to give. Because a servant can even give up his own body to burn but what is driving him to do that might not be the love of Christ, It might be a stupid challenge, uncontrolled emotions or even simple human courage. Christian love is like the needle in a compass, it can move in any direction but it always points to the north pole by a mysterious unseen power, which controls it completely. That is how the person of Christ alone controls the work of the servant and his emotions, his movements and his reaction to the mystery of love which has filled his heart forever.
So, as long as the service is performed by the love of Christ and through the power which attracts the heart to him, it shall be less shaky and even may be less giving, but it shall have a positive effect on the flock as their hearts become attracted to Christ as well to receive the outpouring of the same love too. That is how the servant who has the mystery of Christian love can bring people to love Christ, which is the ultimate goal.
If service is separated from the mystery of love, it becomes like an exercise or a showcase for a person’s talents or even a profession. Love ensures the service against self-righteousness. It keeps the faith for the sake of serving the truth.
Remember, the rich man did not benefit from being a learned man or even from keeping the law since his childhood, because when the Lord told him to sell everything and follow the Christ to inherit the heavenly kingdom, he had no stock of love to enable him to perform such sacrifice.
Therefore, the right knowledge can bring us close to the heavenly kingdom, but we can never be ushered in except through complete sacrifice and absolute surrender to Christ which the function of love.
Fourth: The power of prayer. The power of prayer connects the heart of the servant to the heart of the one being served. It unites and unifies the heir hearts and their spirits. Prayer prepares for the inducement of service in a miraculous manner. Without the power of prayer, the capabilities of the servant remain enclosed inside his heart no matter how spiritual or perfect it might be. Through prayer the Holy Spirit comes to lift up all the difficult barriers between the servant and the flock. Those barriers created by bad environment and wrong education, or those inserted by the adversary to prevent the acceptance of the truth. The power of prayer can turn the quiet words into thunder and rumble that would shake up the sleepy conscious from the depth of sin and disbelief and debauchery. Prayer can melt the stubborn hearts and resenting personalities. Prayer has the power to remove the disillusionment from the hearts and chase away enmity. It can break down the traps of the evil one and forces the antagonist of the service to withdraw. Through Prayer, all the honor and glory of service is credited back to God as everybody will offer him blessings, praise, glory and authority in the name of Christ who qualified us to be servants for himself. Many among us consider themselves shepherds even though we are all lambs, and actually weak ones at that. Many among us, despite showing an outside appearance of righteousness and piety and a clever pretension of holiness, are nothing but sick members in the sight of God, even may be dead in sin and leper lambs in the midst of the herd. The disease afflicting such members is a condition of stagnation into a life of complacency about our own sins as we ignore it and go about quietly like a lamb who ate some poisonous vegetation, and in spite of feeling sick, continues to regurgitate because of the delicious taste. This lamb is in the middle of the herd, and he looks fine and healthy, though he is regurgitating poison.It is a prerequisite for the lambs in order to benefit from the service and the prayer that they get purified in the inside. I.e. their hearts must be pure and ready to accept the spirit of God and his gifts, otherwise serving them would bring no fruits, like a sick lamb stricken in his guts. Such lamb cannot benefit from the best pasture.
IV: THE FLOCK
In as much as there is a good shepherd, there is also a good lamb. In each herd you can find all kinds of talents. There are also many examples of the weaklings e.g. the sick, the babies, and the immature. A good shepherd will have to use wisdom in leading everyone, and would not be disgusted with frail ones.
Many among us consider themselves shepherds even though we are all lambs, and actually weak ones at that. Many among us, despite showing an outside appearance of righteousness and piety and a clever pretension of holiness, are nothing but sick members in the sight of God, even may be dead in sin and leper lambs in the midst of the herd. The disease afflicting such members is a condition of stagnation into a life of complacency about our own sins as we ignore it and go about quietly like a lamb who ate some poisonous vegetation, and in spite of feeling sick, continues to regurgitate because of the delicious taste. This lamb is in the middle of the herd, and he looks fine and healthy, though he is regurgitating poison.
That is how many of us sit in church. We need to spit out these sins first in order to be able to follow the good shepherd and start feeding in his pastures of holiness.
It is a prerequisite for the lambs in order to benefit from the service and the prayer that they get purified in the inside. I.e. their hearts must be pure and ready to accept the spirit of God and his gifts, otherwise serving them would bring no fruits, like a sick lamb stricken in his guts. Such lamb cannot benefit from the best pasture.
Diseases of the lambs.
Resentment of the tight door
This is the plague of the modern times. Every one wants comfort, entertainment and more of everything. The world is always finding ways to improve the means of luxury to people. It enslaves the mind, the wealth, and science to introduce as much comfort as possible for the cheapest price. In the mean time the kingdom of heaven necessitate self-discipline and rejection of lusts and resentment of greed. So what do you think will be the choice? A person will either be attracted to the world and its lusts and in this way goes through the wide gates to fulfill his pleasures and forget him into the endless enjoyments. Or, a person will be inclined to God and his love, and in this way enters through the tight door to achieve serenity and holiness and his pleasure becomes in establishing a relationship with God and living for him. It is not possible for anyone to combine the lusts of the flesh with happiness of the spirit. Therefore, it would be a cursed shepherd who leads his lambs to drink out of the swamp of sin. Also will be equally cursed the lamb who enjoys feeding on poison and invite others to do the same.The door which modern servant are trying to open up for the lambs to satisfy their whims or to respond to their desires, will not lead them to eternal life but rather to perdition. So for us the servants, we have to “deny the lusts of… 2 Timothy: 21”
Evasions in the face of the sharp sword of the word.
“The word of God is … Hebrew 4: 12” Many of us pass over some of the sentences in the bible and ignore it. When we hear about a certain commandment we try not to think about it. At times of instruction and sermons we close our ears to the words directed straight to us and we try to avoid the sting of our conscience. It is true that the word is like a sharp two-edged sword. But in whose hand is that sword?
If it is in the hand of an enemy, we might be right to evade it and run away from it, because he would certainly use it to destroy us. But the word is the word of God who allowed himself to be slain on the cross to extract for us eternal life out of the darkness of death. It is a sword, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, who is meek and gentle, and who will use it to cut out the old self – which longs for the world and its lusts – and separate it from the everlasting soul which longs for eternal life. So, when was the surgeon hateful? Where is the sick person who would not prefer to let the surgeon cut through him even unto his heart? Oh, if only the lambs appreciate the value of the painful words, and the sharp commandment that is pointed at the deceitful heart, the cheating conscience, the profane self and the flagrant body. If only they know that that sharp sword is only providing them with holy reputation, pure conscience and enlightened life. If they know that, they would grab the sword by their own hands and insert it into their own conscience all the way to the heart to bleed the impure contaminated blood. They would endure all pain, insult, defamation, or violence till the old wicked self dies.
If a person listens to the word of God while he is not prepared to accept the sword of the word to pierce his heart and uncover to him his scandalous conscience, or while he is unprepared to put himself under the edge of that sword to sever the death inherent inside him from the true life, then the word which was intended for salvation turns into a word of condemnation.
Oh, the time, which was foretold by the apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy, is at hand. That is when the ears will be disgusted to hear the pure truth, and the people turn to the facilitated instructions. They will also believe in superstitions, which can relieve their conscience from the castigation of the sharp truth. “There will come a time … 2 Tim. 4:3, 4”
It may happen that the herd is stricken with impotence, or early senility. When this happens to a human being, it demolishes his health, dulls his senses and bends his back even while he is still young. This can also happen to the flock collectively in the field of spiritual vitality, where their growth in the love of God becomes stunted and their appetite to acquire holiness disappear.
This might be because the pasture is running dry. It may also be due to poor instruction and bad role models. Another reason is the rush for worldly lusts, which drains the juice of life and corrupts the taste of holiness. In many cases it happens also as a result of excessive striving for wealth or science where a person will dedicate all his energy, time, and resources to obtain scientific degrees. By the time a person will get what he is striving for, he would have lost his liveliness and the cream of his life, as he loses interest in reading and research. Spiritual senility means that the ear has become tired of listening to the repeated calls for repentance to return to God earnestly. You see the instructor and the teacher screaming while the listeners appear to be like dead ghosts, quite unmoved, and where everyone looks around to the others as if the words are intended for them and not for him.
Spiritual senility means that the heart has hardened to the extent that it lost its ability to be invigorated and can no longer respond the work of grace. So much that when a person stands to pray or listen to prayer, he starts to yawn repeatedly until he turns into a ridiculous joke to the people around him while he is quite oblivious to it.
Spiritual senility makes the spiritual nourishment useless. The sacraments are dead to him and the service is but a cold routine. The sermons are dull and the spiritual books are just for entertainment. The spirit is stifled and the heart is full of unintelligible traces of the past life of grace, which is barely used to cover up the situation.
It also means that a person will not be able to retrace his way back to God enthusiastically. Because every time the heart repents and pledges to return to God, he starts to renege gradually till he goes back to the same point again. When the attempt is repeated with the same result, the glaring truth of impotence becomes manifest.
Oh, there is no way to get over spiritual senility, except through crucifying the self, and cutting all the resources that feed the old personality. A person must rid himself of all care in the world and be totally concerned with his personal salvation. “Like an eagle, He will renew your youth”
This is part of the priest’s absolution in midnight prayer where the priest asks that God will inspire his people to avoid the trap of procrastination laid down by the evil one.
If the evil one plants that psychological disease inside someone, he succeeds in making that person waste the many opportunities employed by the Holy Spirit to move the heart to wake it up and shake off the laziness, boredom, and indifference. This way, all the blessed efforts – to re-energize the desire to march in the road of zealous worship – exerted by the servant or the shepherd will go to waste. In this case, the lamb will be touched by the words, will feel the power of the spirit, and will hear the calling of the Lord, BUT will not have the initiative inside to obey the voice immediately. Rather feels like some heat warmed up his heart and then soon faded away, due to the effect of procrastination, so that after a while he loses that heat completely. Where is this compared to what Paul did “and immediately, I did not consult with flesh and blood, but rather rushed…” Where is this response compared to St. Matthew when he was at the taxation office and heard the voice of Christ saying “follow me” henceforth “He got up right away and followed him”
If the lambs are stricken with this sickness, and the desire to postpone their response, then the time for teaching them will be prolonged in vain, and they will become senile spiritually even while they still need the simple milk of babies not to mention the adult nourishment. Paul addresses such people saying “ You have become slow to hear because while you should have become teachers after all this time, you still need someone to show you the principles of the words of God. You have need for milk in stead of adult food” (Hebrew 5:12)
The voice of truth cannot knock on someone’s heart several times with same intensity. If we refuse the truth once, the sound of its warning becomes weaker and less effective. It continues to get weak until the time comes when we begin to doubt whether it is coming from God.
What a pity, we can never doubt the voice of God if we run to respond to it as soon as we hear it.
Our rejection to the truth, because of our delay and procrastination in an attempt to fulfill our lusts and sins, makes us less able to pick up the calling of God. Accordingly, later on we might beg for repentance in tears and not find it, as it was written, “ as he did not find a place for repentance even though he begged for it in tears.(Hebrew 12:17)
Self indulgence and self pity.
If you do no prune the vine, the harvest will be minimized till it stops, and the vinedresser loses. Also if a father does not discipline his child because of pity, the child will grow up to be an immature man who is incapable of bearing responsibility. That is true also of the flock you serve. If the shepherd will be inclined to indulge them and yield to their whims in order to gain their favor, then the whole herd will be corrupted and it will become impossible for them to climb up to heights of the Christian talents or to practice the works of faith, love and sacrifice. On the other hand, if the lambs themselves begin to suffer from the disease of self pity, and thereby resent words of reprimand or the reproach of the teacher, or even the castigation of their conscience. They would not want to endure the results of their own laziness. They would think that their penitence is too harsh. Their growth will be stunted and they will relapse into their old ways and doubt their leader. That is when the evil one finds the opportunity to plant into their hearts the arrows of exasperation and makes the road look to them impossible to navigate. He also frightens them with the temptations and spiritual fights. He offers them the wide road as an easy alternative and devises for them the means to relapse.
Oh, woe to the man who is manipulated by his own self, and allows it to be the basis for his behavior and his faith. The person who suffers from self pity will inevitably be led to rest, then from the rest to Lethargy, then from that to carnality, and finally from that to sin which begets death.
As for the way of God, it needs self-discipline, and self control. It requires conquering difficulties with courage and enduring reproach and punishment from the teacher with content. The Lord asks us to carry the Cross. What is the meaning of the cross?
The Lord brought to our attention the fact that the road to the heavenly kingdom is tough, especially for an overindulged self. Do we want to be crowned without laboring first? Do we want to labor without being injured from within and from without?
Is it possible that we can stand before God in the end and apologize for failing to keep his commandments because it was difficult, or because the instructions of our fathers and teachers were too harsh or tough?
The commandment to the fathers and teachers is very clear “Rebuke, reproach. And teach in patience…2 Tim 4:2” The truth is “How tight is the door and tough is the road leading to life. Only few will find it Mat7: 14”